A Pepper Grinder Post


I'm sure it's pretty obvious that superheroes are popular. I mean, I'm not really surprised that characters like Superman. Spider-Man, and Batman made come-backs on the big screen. When I recently saw a poster in Walmart for Ant-Man, however, I thought, "Wow. We are really getting desperate for new heroes."

I recently watched one of the Spider-Man movies (The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield). I have to admit that I enjoyed it quite well. Like most well-done action films, it's exciting (if you can suspend disbelief for a couple of hours). There is also something very appealing about a nerdy, unpopular teenager suddenly having super powers. But the sheer volume of superhero movies in recent years makes me think there must be some reason why heroes with super powers are so popular right now.

spidermanAs a guy, I have a theory. I think men want to be heroes. I think there is something deep within our souls that wants to save people in trouble and defeat the bad guy. The problem is, many parts of our society are fighting against this. Who is our enemy according to popular culture? Often it is we ourselves. We are destroying our bodies by eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and not exercising enough. We are destroying our planet by using too many fossil fuels. We are making people miserable and encouraging extremism by not being tolerant enough. We are keeping people in poverty by being too selfish. Bad us!

Now, I'm not saying there isn't some truth in some of these claims. We are fallen people, and we do have self-destructive tendencies. But I don't think most men are really going to get their testosterone levels elevated by a clarion call to fight themselves. Enter superhero movies. Frank may spend the week carrying out the pointless demands of a clueless boss, trying half-heartedly to eat his vegetables and exercise, and trying to keep his kids more or less in line, but at least Frank can pop in a movie and watch a guy with a mask do the things some part of him says he is supposed to be doing. For an hour and forty minutes, Frank becomes that superhero.

This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to show how the Bible differs from our culture. In this post, I should talk about how we DO have an enemy to fight and innocent bystanders to save.

It's a little more complicated than that.

On the one hand, there is an enemy. Despite the scoffing of the modern world, the devil is real and he is an arch-villain if ever there was one. We are called to fight him, and we are called to rescue those who are perishing.

On the other hand, it IS true that the place this battle often takes place is inside ourselves. While I believe there is a time and place for actually fighting bad guys, if all we do is engage in military or political battles without ever fighting the enemy within ourselves, we will only end up replacing one set of bad guys with another. It is also true, if I am honest with myself, that my motives for wanting to be able to swing from buildings and have superhuman strength are mixed. Yes, I genuinely do want to save that kid from the burning car. But I also want to be special and powerful, and have people look up to me. I want to be the amazing Pepper-Man. (Whose superpower would be what? To make his enemies sneeze??)

I believe every man is called to be a hero. Most of us may not be called to be heroes in a way that would make a very exciting movie, but that makes us no less heroes in God's eyes. We are called to be strong, to be kind, to be fair, to be loving. We are also called to be humble. We need to be humble, because even the best of us is not a superhero. There is only room for one superhero.

nativity sceneHere is what Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist) prophesied about that superhero:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us--to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75 NIV)

The superhero was coming to rescue his people, and his name didn't end in "-Man." It was Jesus. He didn't bring political or military victory for Israel. Instead, he brought freedom from the penalty of our rebellion, not just for the Jews, but for all people.

We can and should be heroes, but we should always remember that he alone is the superhero.

Merry Christmas!


*Photo credits: spiderman from , nativity scene from